According to our third phase of research exploring the impacts of COVID-19, since a global pandemic was declared, two in five Australians (41%) have worked from home. Almost one in four (24%) are still working from home, while 13% are now back in the office.
The office is not dead, but it will look different
Although Australians have enjoyed working from home, only 14% of employed Australians see their ideal working situation as one where everyone is working from home all of the time. The future of work is likely to be hybrid, with three in five Australians (61%) looking for a degree of flexibility in their working arrangements with a mix of working from home and in the office or workplace.
The ideal for more than one in three (34%) is that the majority of time is spent working from home and employees come into the office for meetings/project collaboration. A similar proportion (28%) see the ideal as everyone working together in the same place most of the time with one to two work from home days a week. This hybrid approach shows that the aspects of workplace culture and community which are missed when working solely from home are still able to be met when employees meet in the workplace to collaborate. A quarter of employed Australians (25%), however, appreciate the more traditional approach with everyone working from the workplace all the time.
Young Australians are driving the new normal of work to be characterised by greater flexibility and collaboration
Younger Australians are more likely to look for a hybrid work approach where the majority of time is spent working from home and only coming into the office for meetings/project collaboration (40% Gen Z, 41% Gen Y cf. 29% Gen X, 30% Baby Boomers, 26% Builders). Older Australians, however, value a more traditional approach where everyone is working from the workplace all the time (29% Builders, 32% Baby Boomers, 30% Gen X, 17% Gen Y, 15% Gen Z).
COVID-19 is revolutionising the workplace
Employed Australians are already seeing long-term cultural changes taking place in their workplace due to COVID-19. Seven in ten employed Australians agree leadership now places a greater priority on employee wellbeing (70%) and mental health (69%). The way we are working is also changing with many agreeing effective communication (69%) and collaboration (65%) has increased across their team. For more than half (57%), video meetings are now the default over phone calls. Not only has communication and collaboration increased, but time in the workplace is now spent more in collaboration than on individual tasks (57%).
Employed Australians are already seeing their workplaces embrace flexibility. More than three in five (65%) agree there is greater flexibility on where and when they work, with 51% seeing remote working as the default instead of the workplace even when restrictions lift.
While 2020 has been a challenging year for businesses, it has provided a time for organisations to adapt, pivot and reinvent themselves. There is now a greater openness to change and more than half of employed Australians (55%) believe their workplace has used this time as a chance to invest in growth and development for the business. Despite the challenges, it is an exciting time for organisations to innovate and adapt for the future, as much of what we had pre-COVID-19, we will never see again. We are not moving to the next but the new. It is not a continuation of how things were, but the start of a whole new reality.